Situated at the foot of Market Street, construction on the Ferry Building was completed
in 1903. In the days before the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, ferries were by far
the most common way to enter San Francisco, and the Ferry Building was the first
thing a visitor saw.
IT WAS ONCE THE HUB OF THE CITY
Not only did all the ferries dock at the Ferry Building, but all the Market Street
streetcars made their loop directly in front.
BUSY, BUSY, BUSY
At its peak in the early 1930s, the Ferry Building has 150 landings a day, every
day. Many of the ferry boats were quite luxurious, and large enough to transport
passenger and their automobiles.
A LONG EXILE
As people got used to the idea of driving themselves across the bridges, the ferries
became less and less important, and gradually faded away. The Ferry Building itself
was converted to office space, or sat vacant.
It only got worse when the Embarcadero Freeway was constructed. This double-decker
monstrosity effectively hid the entire building, leaving only the clock tower showing.
It took nothing less than the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake to get all that ugly concrete
out of the way. Within three years, the last of the rubble was removed. A few
years after that, the Ferry Building was remodeled, refurbished and transformed into
an upscale food mall. And where the Embarcadero Freeway once stood, there is now
a beautiful, palm tree-lined boulevard.
THE RETURN OF THE FERRIES
They’re nowhere near as big, and not as many of them, but they sure are fun, and
offer great views of The City from the water.
The Ferry Building as seen from down the Embarcadero, from the top of Telegraph Hill,
and from Chinatown (looking down Commercial Street).